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Competitive exclusion after invasion?

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The ‘Competitive Exclusion Principle’ is a foundation stone in the understanding of interspecific competition and niche relationships between species. In spite of having the status of a biological law, the principle has limited empirical support. In this study, we document strong effects of competition from the invading fish species vendace Coregonus albula over a 14-year period in the sub-arctic Pasvik watercourse. The native d.r. whitefish, that shared food and habitat niche with the invader, was displaced from its original niche and showed a more than 90% decline in population density over the study period. The study thus provides a unique record of how an exotic fish species excludes a native species from its original niche. Our data support the competitive exclusion principle, but also indicate that the vulnerability of the inferior competitor depends on a lack of alternative resources and on indirect ecological interactions.

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Thanks to Stephen T. Ross for comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and to Frode Staldvik, Laina Dalsbø, Jan Evjen, Elleke Wartena, Pål Arne Bjørn, Hallvard Jensen, Gry Hellander Våga, Ingrid Jensvoll, Karl Øystein Gjelland, Anna Siwertson, Odd Terje Sandlund and Rune Knudsen for help during field work. Financial support was given by the Norwegian Research Council under the program ‘Biological Diversity – Dynamics, Threats and Management’, the Directorate for Nature Management and the Governor of Finnmark County.

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Correspondence to Thomas Bøhn.

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Bøhn, T., Amundsen, PA. & Sparrow, A. Competitive exclusion after invasion?. Biol Invasions 10, 359–368 (2008).

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